Vitamin D is important because it helps to regulate absorption of calcium and phosphate in the body which is essential to healthy bone formation. Vitamin D also plays a role in the immune system, regulation of cell growth, regulation of inflammation response, muscle strength, and even hormone production. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your vitamin D intake will also have an affect on your baby’s vitamin D levels and his/her proper development.
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy puts your baby at risk of having low vitamin D stores at birth. In extreme cases, babies can develop rickets as a result of low vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to an increased risk of pregnancy complications including preeclampsia, preterm labor, gestational diabetes and increased risk for infections. Research shows that supplementing with additional vitamin D3 in pregnancy promotes healthy bone-mass for children later in life and may help to prevent depression.
Where Does Vitamin D Come From?
Your body is able to make most of the vitamin D you need through exposure to sunlight. During the summer months, when the sun is at its hottest, your body replenishes its stores of this important vitamin. Experts recommend spending 20 minutes a day with your face and forearms exposed to the sun during summer. Sunscreen can reduce the amount of vitamin D absorbed, so you should avoid its use for these 20 minutes. It is important, however, to stay safe in the sun and protect your skin to prevent lasting damage, so ensure you limit this exposure to just 20 minutes.
Vitamin D can be consumed as part of your daily diet, and this will help to ensure you have enough Vitamin D for both and your baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Foods such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks are considered to be good sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin D Supplementation for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem across the US, with increased number of people suffering from low levels of this vital vitamin.
You have an increased likelihood of having low levels of vitamin D if you:
- have dark skin
- have a body mass index of 30 or above
- have limited exposure to sunlight
- don’t eat enough foods rich in vitamin D
Most pregnancy and breastfeeding multivitamins contain vitamin D, but you should check the dosage to ensure you are getting the right amount. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take a daily supplement containing 400IU of vitamin D. This amount is under review, and many experts believe it should in fact be a higher dosage. Speak to your healthcare professional for advice on which vitamin D supplement to choose during pregnancy.
Assuming that your vitamin D levels were at an acceptable level during pregnancy, your baby should be able to get all the vitamin D he needs from your breastmilk. If, however, you suffered from low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, your baby may need a vitamin D supplement. If you are suffering from low levels of vitamin D during breastfeeding, speak to your healthcare provider to find out if your baby should take a vitamin D supplement.
It is recommended that you continue to take vitamin D supplements while breastfeeding, as this helps to ensure your baby is receiving enough vitamin D through your milk. Experts recommend that babies aged under six months should have limited exposure to the sun, so it is important to make sure your baby is getting enough vitamin D through breast milk.
Low Levels of Vitamin D During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
If you are worried that you may be suffering from low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy or breastfeeding, you can request a blood test. If the test confirms a deficiency, your healthcare provider will be able to recommend supplements to increase your vitamin D levels.
It is also possible to take too much vitamin D, and it can be difficult for your body to get rid of the excess. Speak to your healthcare provider about the supplements you take, to make sure you are within the healthy range for both you and your baby. We find the best way to avoid taking too much vitamin D, is to take a whole food sourced vitamin D3 supplement.